Wednesday, 22 May 2019

 

School of Rock at the Gillian Lynne Theatre


[AD – gifted] School of Rock is what you get when you cross the headbanging music of Rock of Ages with a talented young cast like in Matilda. Preppy children in school uniforms turn into rock stars in this super fun show with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellows. Nearly three years on from its West End debut it's still rockin' night after night, and I had the joy last week to see the show again for the first time in a few years.

Based on the cult classic starring Jack Black, School of Rock is the tale of Dewey Finn (Craig Gallivan). Dreaming of being a rock god, he can't hold a job or pay the rent, but the thing that keeps him going is performing in the Battle of the Bands competition. Until he gets kicked out of the band he started. At literal rock bottom he accidentally takes a call with a job offer intended for a friend. And, desperate to make some quick cash, Dewey ends up in the role of substitute teacher at a prestigious private school.

Needless to say his new gig is less AC/DC and more Mozart, but when he discovers the musical talents of his new students, Dewey realises that he's been handed a second chance at entering the Battle of the Bands... with a class of prep school kids. 

I saw School of Rock when it had just opened in the West End in 2016 and I instantly fell in love with the heartwarming and funny story, catchy pop-rock tunes and, most notably, the insanely talented cast of children who not only were great actors, singers and dancers, but also played their instruments live throughout the whole performance. They were more skilled than many of the adults I've seen on stage, and that's saying something as we don't have a lack of talent in the West End.

Three years on, the cast of children has changed multiple times but the talent has not. They're still melting the audiences' faces night after night at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (rebranded from the New London Theatre since my last visit), just off Shaftesbury Avenue. From the toe-tapping You're In the Band to the heart-rending If Only You Would Listen to solid rock numbers like Stick it to the Man and School of Rock, the musical has an incredible soundtrack. Each big song is a showstopper, and while Andrew Lloyd Webber's music is undeniably good, it's truly the incredible talent of the young cast on stage that makes this such a fantastic show. 

Stage adaptations from the screen often get a bad rep, as critics say there are barely anything original threading the boards in London these days. While this may be the case, that is not the fault of the adapted shows – and it's hugely unfair to judge the insanely talented cast and musicians of these musicals on that; they didn't choose the source material. They take an existing story and dialogue, make it fit the theatre and work hard every night to delight a whole new audience. As proven for several years now by the success that is School of Rock.

With catchy tunes, great staging, a fun story and an incredible cast, this show really does stick it to the man.

Top tip: The theatre just started selling £3 buckets of cotton candy – and the blue raspberry one is worth every single penny. You're welcome.

Huge thanks to wonderful team at London Box Office for organising a complimentary visit to the show in exchange for an honest review. 




School of Rock is currently taking bookings until 5 January 2020. Get your tickets here.


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